Lobos begin Bragg-less era at CSU

Auburn guard Tyrell Jones (0) retrieves a loose ball as New Mexico guard JaQuan Lyle (5) tries to get it back while Auburn guard J'Von McCormick (5) falls to the floor during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Legends Classic, Monday, Nov. 25, 2019, in New York.

ALBUQUERQUE — The ax fell on another University of New Mexico men’s basketball player Wednesday.

Lobos head coach Paul Weir suspended senior JaQuan Lyle for two games Wednesday for “conduct detrimental to the team,” according to Chelsea Pitvorec, associate athletic director of communications.

The suspension stems from his role in an off-campus party attended by several UNM student-athletes that resulted in a shooting that left two people with non-life-threatening injuries. The incident occurred just past 2 a.m. Sunday when a caller alerted the Albuquerque Police Department that “people were shooting at each other,” according to an APD statement.

No arrests have been made and police are still investigating, an Albuquerque Police Department spokesman said.

Wednesday’s announcement came just 90 minutes before the Lobos played undefeated and fourth-ranked San Diego State in The Pit, a game televised nationally by CBS-Sports Network.

Lyle took to Twitter before the game to issue an apology.

“Saturday night I made a decision I deeply regret to reserve an Airbnb while my teammates were out of town,” he wrote. “At the time I thought it was the responsible thing to do to find a safe place for fun with some students and friends. Looking back at it now I can see that I should have had way better judgement [sic]. My focus should have been on my academics, my health and supporting my teammates coming home from their game.”

Lyle had missed UNM’s last two games — against San Jose State and Nevada — with an injured left knee. He did not travel with the team to Reno, Nev., last weekend. The Lobos lost to Nevada the same night the aforementioned party began at a house less than a mile south of Winrock Town Center in northeast Albuquerque.

Lyle helped organize the party through the services of a local person or persons who agreed to supply music and alcohol in exchange for a cover price at the door.

“I apologize for the publicity this has created,” Lyle wrote. “It is the last thing I wanted to bring to our team, our fans, and UNM. I will do everything in my power to make this right, accept all responsibility for my actions, and help put our team back on track.”

Weir said Monday that Lyle had been physically cleared to return to practice, but he was held out of team activities when that afternoon’s workout began in The Pit. He was not on the team’s bench for Wednesday’s game.

Athletic director Eddie Nuñez said Tuesday night that Lyle had not been disciplined by the athletic department or the school, and that any ruling on his immediate availability would come from Weir.

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Lyle becomes the latest in a growing list of Lobos to face disciplinary action this season.

It began in the preseason when senior forward Corey Manigault was discovered in August to have drug paraphernalia and alcohol in his student residence. He gave campus police a fictitious name but was not arrested or charged. He didn’t miss any playing time, and his punishment before the team’s first game was handled in-house by running steps in practice rather than working out with the team.

Sophomore guard JJ Caldwell and senior center Carlton Bragg were suspended for unrelated incidents just minutes prior to the Dec. 22 game against Houston Baptist. It was discovered in the days that followed that a 22-year-old woman accused Caldwell of domestic battery, while Bragg had been accused of attempted criminal sexual penetration.

Both investigations are ongoing and have been forwarded to the district attorney. Each incident was also investigated by UNM’s Office of Equal Opportunity, which cleared Bragg but not Caldwell.

Neither player was charged nor arrested, and Bragg was reinstated after missing two games but was thrown off the team less than a week later when he was arrested for aggravated DWI in the early morning hours of Jan. 12. He later had the female who accused him of sexual misconduct file a restraining order against him.

Caldwell is still on the team’s roster but has remained on indefinite suspension and appears unlikely to return this season, if at all. Weir said Monday that his status has not changed.

Caldwell filed a lawsuit against UNM on Jan. 2 seeking his reinstatement as well as undisclosed financial restitution, and the case is pending.

Other smaller incidents have taken place this season, such as guard Keith McGee missing one game for showing up late to a team function and Lyle and Vante Hendrix sitting out time during games for disciplinary reasons.

Lyle, a 6-foot-5 guard, transferred to UNM in 2017 and sat out the 2017-18 season as a redshirt transfer after playing his first two years at Ohio State.

He missed all of last season after rupturing an Achilles tendon just weeks before the team’s first game. He and guard Vance Jackson were among the first recruits brought to UNM after Weir was named head coach in April 2017.

Lyle started the Lobos’ first 20 games this season, leading the team in scoring at 17.1 points per game. He posted a pair of 31-point performances and has scored at least 20 seven times. He ranks fourth in the Mountain West Conference in scoring and steals (1.4) and is second in assists (4.9).

He has twice been named the MWC’s player of the week.

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